I have been contemplating doing a bit of cycle touring for a while now. It started with me looking at getting a touring bike, when I was contemplating the n+1 theory, having paid off half my Brompton. I ended up coming home, not with a touring bike as planned, but with a 2014 Specialized Ruby carbon road bike. I’ll be honest, I love my road bike. It is so quick and responsive. It isn’t the same sort of fun as the Brompton, and I wouldn’t take it to do the shopping, but for riding it the way it was intended (a Sunday fifty miler with a coffee and cake stop, on roads, mainly in the countryside) it’s totally and utterly brilliant. I had forgotten the love of road cycling having spent too many years off-road in the Highlands.
Of course, since I bought a strictly road bike, I still don’t then have a touring bike on which to do any overnight, or multiple overnight, bike expeditions. Before you get too excited, I’m not talking about going round the World a la Mark Beaumont, more something like The Great Glen Way. I’ve had the guide book for walking The Great Glen Way in my possession now for a couple of years, but my knees are not so keen on the idea. Aside from seeing this guidebook staring at me from the bookshelf every day, I then got to following a recent trip along the Great Glen Way, solo, by a woman cyclist, on Twitter. She had really fine weather which meant the pictures just drove me mad with desire to cycle it myself.
It’s 73 miles from Fort William to Inverness on the GGW. I could do that, over a long weekend or maybe four days given my fitness level at the moment. Covid curtailed my daily cycling and I’ve got a bit lazy of late. But, I keep telling myself, I still don’t have a touring bike that can cope with gravel and take a decent amount of luggage.
Except I do. I have my Brompton. I have a bike built to last, with capability to a little bit of off road gravel (very easy trail type routes), and which takes some pretty decent amounts of luggage. If I added a rear rack, used a large dry bag or something like my backpacking pack perched on the rack and tied to the seat post…
You see, I got thinking and my first map cap idea come about – The Great Glen Way by Brompton.
Is it doable? What are the surfaces like?
Some research shows that the Great Glen Way itself would be fine from Fort William to Fort Augustus, but north of that it really becomes a mountain bike trail, or so it would seem. I was under the impression a new version of the path was being laid though, and that this would be friendlier to non-mountain types? More up to date research is definitely required on this. My UK Cycle Route Planner says that there is the option of using the Caledonia Way, aka National Cycle Network route 78 from Fort Augustus to Inverness instead. This is an on road section…
Hmmm….the Caledonia Way….now the brain cells are getting up a gear. Where does the Caledonia Way go? Can this be gone in it’s entirety on a Brompton? What if I had support from my partner in the camper van so I wouldn’t need to carry so much stuff? Would that still count? I mean, it’s no longer bike packing if I’m not packing the stuff on the bike of course, but it’s still a long distance route, on a Brompton. Does this water down the challenge?
Decisions, debates, and more research still needs to be done. Can I do a long distance route, unsupported on a Brompton? Would I be better off doing it supported, at least in the first instance? I do like a challenge, and I do like pitching my tent at the end of the day with only the midges for company.
My latest mad cap scheme has opened up a whole other world of yet more questions, but none of these are about the capability of the Brompton to complete the task. The only thing that might not be capable is…me.